This is a short story written for #BlogBattle over at http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/
The theme for this story is ‘Voice’ This is my fiction piece
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS, 1923
Hans Kroeger strolled through the plain wooden door, its frosted glass guarding the outside world from seeing inside, and set his briefcase down heavily. He set about brewing a pot of coffee, from which he poured himself a large cup and stared out the window.
Thomas Todder, his business partner of five years, interrupted; slamming the door behind him and pointedly avoiding eye contact with his partner.
Thomas poured himself an equally large cup of coffee and added two fingers of whiskey. He sat at his desk and began to sweat under Hans’ nervous stare.
Though the two men departed from their office the night before and retired to their own homes, they found themselves reunited in a dream. It was a shared dream, impossible yes, but seemingly less impossible than the landscape around them. It was made of crimson reds, violets, oranges the color of the sunset and teals that flirted with indigo but never gave in. They stood in a desert, wavering cacti stretching for miles. It was night in their dream, daytime seemed a ridiculous notion, and under an oversize moon hung six or seven big dippers.
Death a voice repeated, simultaneously in Spanish and English.
Hans and Thomas found themselves tied together, back to back, palm trees sprouting all around them and dancing violently.
We know. We know and we will rinse your soul clean.
If you asked Hans Kroeger or Thomas Todder about their newspaper, The San Antonio Voice, they’d say it was the most popular paper in Texas, the National Paper, hard journalism, and the best read since The Declaration of Independence. It was the same paper that had unmasked the Cattle Killer as Carlos De Sueña, discovered the Texas Desert Ape and proved it was Ricardo Jimenez and his wife Maria, and had proved the corruption charges against Mayor Jonas Rodriguez true, running him out of office.
It was a three man operation with only enough glory for two. Matta Zoltón, the young man who ran the presses, cleaned and maintained the machines, and loaded the cars for delivery, was a shadow stuck behind the scenes.
This morning, Hans and Thomas found their hubris deflated, both wondering about the strange dream they had, unaware the other had dreamt the same nightmare.
They moved slowly, but by lunch both men had put the terror out of their minds and, by evening, felt jovial enough for a drive up to the Hill Country for a drink at the Beer Hall.
They left Matta with a full night’s work. Tomorrow’s headline read: SANTOS CERO: OFFICER OF THE LAW, OR KILLER OF LOCAL BATS; CHIROPTERA KILLER.
Hans’ crimson tie lay on the table next to Thomas’ teal and purple diamond print one as the two men readied themselves to leave the Beer Hall. It was not a large Hall with mostly outdoor seating, but the warm night air of the Texas summer kept patrons comfortable where walls and ceilings did not. The owner brewed his own Ale and kept a plethora of pretty daughters behind the bar, both contributing to the continuing success of the establishment.
It was dark and the moon had not yet risen when the two men decided to call a car and return home. Without the blanket of stars, the sprawling, open fields of the Hill Country remained seemingly unconquerable. Thomas grabbed both men’s ties and encouraged Hans to follow him on the short walk to the road where they could more easily meet their driver.
As they trudged through the wet grass, the moon rose violently, stars coming into view under a wavering orange band of light. Trumpets sounded around them, playing a dark melody in an incongruously snappy, crisp performance.
The sound of hooves snuck up on the two men until they spun around to find a glowing white figure atop a horse. It was clearly, even through the haze of a few pints of Ale, a skeleton wearing a General’s uniform, a tailored black and red coat with black pants that made the apparition resemble some sort of vampire if not for the unnerving, grinning skeleton face the two men could help but fixate upon.
The hands and head of the skeleton sucked the glow from the full moon and illuminated fully in the space around the men. Its face was adorned in the traditional Dia De Los Muertos Calavera Skull, flowers around the eyes, with smaller more decorative lines in oranges, teal and crimson all across the face. On the forehead a small sun faded to crescent moon and back again every few seconds. The Skeleton pulled the reins of the horse and jumped in an acrobatic spin, landing in front of the two men and knocking them to the ground.
Hola! It cried.
“Who are you?” Thomas demanded.
Oh, senior Todder, you do not recognize me? Is it perhaps because I am dead? It does alter the face a bit, no? the apparition laughed, drawing his face in close to Thomas’.
“I know that voice…” Hans murmured.
It is General Posata you odorous gringos!
“No, no you’re dead.” Hans retorted. He had only met the man a few times, but this did not sound like General Posata. Or did it? Perhaps having no vocal chords altered the voice?
I AM?? The General cried, looking back in forth, his features pulled into exaggerated surprise, like a glowing, undead tragedy mask. He laughed heartily, a meaty chuckle that sent shivers down the two men’s spines. Walk with me. He said, and set off.
“No. Leave us alone,” Thomas spat.
Wasn’t asking. Posata said, and Thomas realized his feet were moving independent of his brain. They were no longer in the Hill Country; the landscape had changed to that of the desert far west of San Antonio.
It is cold here at night, but not as cold as death. Did I mention I’m dead? Posata said lyrically. I believe that you two had something to do with that. And I believe you two have had something to do with a number of deaths, all which number among the Mexican men and women of San Antonio.
The desert was indeed cold. The Big Dipper fell from the sky, crashing to earth and revealing itself to be seven souls, each men and women The San Antonio Voice had proved guilty a crime that had sentenced them to death.
Posata circled the men. I am a blunt man, so let me say this; You have brought death upon too many who did not deserve it, including myself, all in the pursuit to prove a your so called truths. You are not journalists, but prejudice harbingers of death. Tonight, this ends, unless you can report from this desert, your new home Someday, you will feel the cold of death, but first ,you will burn in this place.
Hans and Thomas could not protest; their voices were stripped from them. The big dipper danced around in cold, fiery torment, and the coyotes of the desert laughed and laughed.
No one in San Antonio ever figured out where the two men who ran The San Antonio Voice had gone. The bar maids at the beer hall said they had wandered off and were captured by wolves. Others claimed the old Native American Gods who protected the land had taken them. Matta swore it was an Angel sent from hell to take them.
Matta took over the paper, proving swiftly that the previous management’s versions of the truth were both fabricated and dangerously askew. The Mexican community rejoiced at his ascension and fine work running the paper.
He was not only a fine journalist and well respected member of the community, but also the best horseman in all of San Antonio
And the coyotes laughed and laughed.